Change the World Wednesday, Plastic

I lost a day this week. I thought it was only Tuesday so this is a bit late.  Small Footprints decided to focus on Plastic bags.  Before I share this week’s challenge, I did follow up in searching for butcher paper to replace the food saver bags in my freezer.  I found them, but I didn’t purchase them.

freezer paper

What is the point of buying paper, of which has its own environmental impact if it’s going to be coated with plastic?  I don’t know what the answer is.  I could look at the problem as one of finding something reusable. That wouldn’t be real hard, a bit pricey, but not hard. I could use glass mason jars like Small Footprints does or take her suggestion and buy stainless steel containers that might stack better.  But if I am trying to keep my footprint as low as possible it takes resources to make those stainless steel containers. Glass then would be the best option I can think of.

Now that I have shared my latest disappointment, how about a challenge that ties in nicely with Plastic-free July?

This week’s challenge is all about the plastic bag.

 

Plastic bag use has been called a pandemic (an epidemic of infectious disease that has spread through human populations across a large region). These ubiquitous bags cause a lot of problems for the environment. Here are some facts:

  • Approximately two million single-use plastic bags are used, worldwide, each minute.
  • According to the BBC, only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled.
  • A 2011 article in Rolling Stone stated that American shoppers use more than 500 plastic bags, per consumer, per year.
  • There are about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in every square mile of ocean.
  • Plastic bags remain toxic even after they break down.
  • It costs 2-5 cents to manufacture one bag. It costs 17 cents to clean them up.

Let’s commit, or recommit, to banning them from our lives!

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I had to stop in the grocery store Monday to price something for my son, at the checkout I heard a conversation that dampened my mood.  The woman in front of me had just purchased a single item, a loaf of bread.  This was a commercial brand which meant it was in a plastic bag with a metal twist tie.  The cashier asked if she wanted a [plastic] bag to put the bread in.  The customer thought about it then said no. Nice right?  But then she added that she thought she had enough at home to make it through the week.  She then turned the conversation to how she can’t imagine what she would do with out them because they are so useful.  Ugh I wanted to say something but decided I should probably keep my mouth closed. This woman wasn’t going to be swayed by anything I had to say.

 This week’s challenge is:

 

This week, ban plastic bags. Carry a reusable bag, use a box, or simply carry items loose. Say NO to plastic bags and don’t allow them into your home.

 

OR …

If your home is plastic bag free, please refuse to buy anything which is packaged in plastic (I know … it’s truly a challenge … but I have confidence in you).

 

OR …

Look around your home for plastic items and then, research non-plastic alternatives. If you are ready to replace the item, please do. If not, make plans to do so when the time comes.

 

 

I’ve got carrying my bag down, I never leave home without at least one.

How am I doing with this year’s Plastic-free July? Not nearly as well as I would like. This month I had to purchase a few things which I could only get if I bought them wrapped in plastic. The first was a bag of organic apples.  Being without one of my favorite fruits is hard, so I broke down and bought one bag.  At our store there is no option either a bag of apples or no apples.

Then came a request from my daughter-in-law.  She’s having a baby shower Sunday and asked me to make onesies from her Pinterest boards for her husband.  No problem. The onesies I finally found were encased in cardboard but had four pieces of tape. Where I ran into a problem was in having to buy fabric paint.  In the end I settled for fabric paint markers.  I went with the smallest package I could find but I still came home with five plastic markers and a plastic sleeve.

The little ones asked me to get tortillas so they can have sandwiches when they are here. Guess what, the only options available come in plastic.  I know you probably know how to make your own.  I do too, but I don’t have a stove so that option isn’t open for me.

It’s now 17 days in and my plastic total that came into my house was:

  • 5 markers and a plastic sleeve
  • a tortilla wrapper
  • bag from apples
  • 4 pieces of tape.

 

As for looking to replace things around my home, the food saver is tops on my list but that will take a bit of time.  Mason jars are rare here second-hand, they are grabbed up as soon as they arrive which leaves me with buying them new.

There really isn’t much plastic left in my home. What I can think of would be:

  • plastic cup for washing my hair (not putting glass in the shower)
  • plastic spray bottle for vinegar in the shower, same situation as the cup.
  • My juicer has a lot of plastic on it, I’m considering selling it as I make more smoothies than juices
  • My laptop and cell phone of course are plastic, are there alternatives to plastic cases?
  • The two shutters I found and have on either side of my window
  • A few pens and markers
  • Lots of pill bottles I save for quarters (laundry) and to save seeds in.
  • Some of the children’s toys are plastic, it’s hard to get around that.
  • My clock radio which I pull out to listen to music has a plastic case
  • With music I still have quite a few CDs, plastic
  • My deodorant comes in plastic.
  • My vacuüm is made from plastic
  • My broom and dustpan which I’ve had for decades have plastic on them

There are a few other thing in my sewing supplies which are plastic such as my rotary cutter and a few of the quilting tools. I’m sure I am leaving something out, but it’s getting better.

 

This is what I have left  Which part of the challenge will you join me in this week?

29 thoughts on “Change the World Wednesday, Plastic

  1. I love the story of the cashier in the fabric shop!
    I don’t have a problem with freezing glass, it seems to work well and is inert and thus I believe safe. But as you say, it does take up more space than bags. I use a mixture of the 2 and manage to fit everything in.
    Although we’re all trying to reduce our plastic use, the amount that we “greens” use is so minimal compared to the average, that I believe trying to go totally plastic-free is just about impossible – I’m sure there’s a Law of Diminishing Returns when you have to go to an endless amount of trouble to avoid plastic.
    Regarding family members, ah yes, I have that problem too, some are much better than others. A lovely chap wrote a great Guest Post for my blog on that very subject, perhaps your readers would find it helpful? If so, it’s here: http://www.ecofriendlylink.com/blog/gogreen-powerofsuggestion
    It really is difficult to be totally plastic-free in today’s society, but I think you’re doing a great job, and you’re inspiring all of us – thanks Lois!

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    • Hello Clare, I agree that those of us who are conscious about our footprints use way less than the average person of both plastic and toxins in general. I like the idea of using a combination of glass and plastic to pack the freezer, Maybe I could fill in the gaps with the freezer bags to reduce the amount of bags I use. I’ve started to think about what I can store safely most of the winter without refrigeration/freezing and have planted squashes that will keep well without any specific storage requirements to offset the freezer needs. I’m also attempting to dehydrate more foods which will store easily in glass in the pantry and take up less space in the process.

      Thank you for sharing Logan’s guest post. I definitely agree in looking for ways to encourage others to reduce their footprint through actions rather than words. I’ve seen a big difference in how family and friends are looking at their waste and what they use around the home as a result. Children are especially easy to influence. They will ask questions about why we do what we do and then consider how they feel and follow suit. When children are exposed to the concept of waste it doesn’t make sense to them and they try to eliminate it any way they can.

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  2. The sheer amount of freezing I do means I have to use freezer bags – anything else would be too expensive and take up too much room. I do use snap lock ones that I wash out and reuse many times. I have to say I am not nearly as good as you in conscious shopping without plastic but I am aware and the ones I do bring home are always saved and reused for freezing, to give to people to take veges home etc. I do have quite a nice pile in my pantry at present though, I could do alot better.

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    • Wendy, like you I try to maximize the space in the freezer. I was able to fill it last year and live from that and the pantry from November until mid April but it’s only 5.1 cubic feet so I can’t afford to waste an inch.

      You know I do not bring home plastic bags, I refuse them every time but still some show up here. My daughter-in-law is the worst about bringing bags here and leaving them behind. I used some to tie around the garden as deer deterrent.

      It’s almost impossible to shop and not bring plastic home. The only solution seems to stop shopping. ;-( It’s a pain when I truly need something and can’t get it used.

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  3. As I haven’t been able to find a good alternative for plastic freezer bags (and I freeze a lot from a big garden), I use them over and over. Then finally I try to find reuses for the good parts of what’s left. My most recent reuse was to cut a circle of plastic and one of cute reused fabric, sew in some elastic, and make a jar cover for a glass jar that didn’t have a top. I’ve also made my own sandwich or snack bags reusing fabric and the plastic bags as liner. They open flat, you can wipe them clean, and I’ve made a lot of fun ones for gifts.

    Things I haven’t been able to find alternatives for in the Great Plastic Purge are: stick blender, metal travel cup to keep beverages hot has a plastic lid as does my steel water bottle for hiking and biking, handles on toaster oven and fridge (the fridge is a nightmare of plastic inside but at least it doesn’t touch my food directly), hair straightener, CD player, phone, iPad, laptop . . .

    My most recent change is to stop buying tea bags because even the ones I thought were paper have a small amount of plastic added. All my tea is now loose tea. I had been putting those paper teabags in the compost for years so now I have all this plastic in my garden that I didn’t know about. Depressing!

    Great post, Lois. You and your readers always help me “do better” and come up with new ideas.

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    • Cynthia, you are so creative. You gave me some great ideas for the bags from the food saver. While you can reuse the bags the simple fact that you need head space to vacuum out the air then seal the bag by melting it each time you use it you lose the first couple of inches. Eventually you don’t have enough to freeze anything in.

      While I am trying very hard to not bring in any more plastic, including trying to find an alternative to freezer bags, in the grand scheme of things those of us who clean and reuse our bags to freeze our own home-grown produce have such a lighter footprint. When I try to add up the costs of purchasing produce from a store there are the miles the food traveled to be packaged, cooling for a building (and truck in some cases) to store the produce until it is trucked to a store. Then there is the costs of operating (building, heating and cooling) a store until you buy it. Yes, our plastic bags use oil and yes they are sold to us from a store, but the bags are so light they don’t use the same amount of energy to get them to the store.

      Anyway, what I am trying to say is that plastic has taken over our lives. The amounts of plastic we still use is miniscule in the bigger picture.

      Now you are getting picky. ;-) If I were to list everything that has plastic (of which I forgot a couple) then yes, my stick blender has some plastic on it, my rice cooker has plastic handles, my toothbrush handle maybe bamboo but the bristles are still nylon. A few of my picture frames are plastic. I’m looking around the house trying to see what else I forgot. My sewing machine, did I mention that before? Oh I have a plastic cigar tube my grandmother stored her (metal) crochet hooks in, I inherited them so yes there’s more plastic. I’m sure I’m still forgetting something else. But instead of beating myself up I like to look at all the ways I’ve eliminated the plastic and other questionable products.

      Isn’t that horrible that tea bags are made with plastic? I did a search and found there is no plastic in Numi brand tea bags. I settled for that because there is no where I can buy loose tea leaves. Food Babe did a post on the brands with and without plastic and I think there are four without.

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  4. I am really impressed by your 17-day total! Like you, I always carry a reusable bag with me and I rarely if ever now choose to accept a new plastic bag. I have been significantly reducing how many non-essential purchases I make so I am going to continue with that this week. I’m currently on the search for a lip balm which is both natural and not excessively packaged, though. Really great to read your list of the plastic items you have left as most of them are long-term purchases that last for a while. Inspiring reading, thank you! :)

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    • Joanna, I wish I could tell you of a lip balm that doesn’t use plastic, but I gave up searching and now just use a bit of organic coconut oil. It’s not easy to have on the go because you can just stick your finger into the container as you would contaminate the oil but at home it works well. Have you considered making your own?

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      • I have never heard of using coconut oil as a lip balm before, but it is definitely something I’ll try! I have thought about making my own but lots of recipes I’ve found use essential oils, which so far I’m unwilling to invest in as they are pretty expensive! For now I’m sticking to buying, but one day I will try and make my own :)

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  5. Lovely post! it gives me some ideas about how to manage without…
    at the moment I’m getting used to do without the bags, my family finds it harder
    but the thought is out there & I believe time will produce slowly some change,
    even if it’s at first just the hesitation before accepting it in a shop…
    it is already a hopeful beginning :)

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    • Thank you. Yes, my family is split on the bag issue. My sons and one daughter-in-law don’t carry bags with them. The grandchildren who live nearest me are the ones who think it’s cool to carry their own bag. When I took my granddaughter to the fabric store a couple of weekends ago, she met me with a bag I made for her out of one of her old t-shirts. I was so happy to see she brought her own bag and the cashier, a woman about my own age, took the time to admire the design on the bag and make a big deal out of it for the little one. It’s the little things like the kind cashier that will spur the children to make the changes now and have it be a natural part of their adult lives.

      Good luck teaching your family to make the switch.

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  6. Hmmm… well, I have a huge collection of mason jars because I used to buy Classico brand pasta sauces (one of the few commercial brands I can eat) and they come in real, genuine mason jars. I now make my own pasta sauces, but am really glad I have the jars. Anyhow, if you ever buy pasta sauce, or know someone who does… just something to consider.

    I’m not nearly as good with plastic as I could be. I bring my own bags for sacking groceries, it’s the produce bags that I still use… mostly because I use them for cleaning up kitty litter. I just haven’t found a good alternative. For a while I tried composting the kitty litter with mixed results. You have to use caution with cat poo, because a huge percentage of cats are infected with toxoplasmosis. It is a dormant infection for the cat, but you don’t want it any where near your food. So I composted mine for 3 years before using it, and I only put it on ornamental plants.

    But (and this is a big but) it’s a REAL pain to compost. It stinks, and since the litter I was using at the time was wheat based it attracted a LOT of mice. We’re slowly switching to litter made from walnut shells – better in many respects except, of course, it comes in a plastic bag! Anyhow, at the moment I’ve given up and am tossing the kitty litter again, and the city requires it to be bagged in plastic. Any brilliant suggestions?

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    • OK… I just looked on the Classico web page, and it says you shouldn’t re-use their jars for canning because they are now made of thinner glass… hmmm… mine are all over 5 years old, so I’m not sure if they’re the same as the current ones or not, but I’ve only lost a small handful in the freezer and it was usually because I put something in hot or didn’t leave enough room at the top for it to expand. Soo… take that suggestion with a grain of salt!

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      • Hmm, thanks for the update on the jars. I am thinking I’ll pick up a case or two of mason jars but to account for the extra room they take up dehydrate more of my foods. Who knows maybe I can, in a few years, dehydrate enough to give up the freezer.

        My grandfather saved one coffee brand’s jars because they were more square and fit in his pantry better without the wasted space. I know they used some of them to can their tomato sauce but they never tried them in the freezer. I hear a lot of warnings about canning in glass not specifically meant for canning but they never had a problem and none of us ever got sick.

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    • With four cats, we too use plastic bags to clean up their litter boxes. Like you, I tried composting the waste in the yard, but there were too many hazards to that. We almost exclusively use resusable grocery bags so we’re always low on bags for the cats. I have a friend that brings me hers, so I guess that means her bags are at least getting used twice instead of once. Baby steps.

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    • You may still use plastic for your litter but you are definitely ahead of most by using a more natural litter base. I didn’t know there were brands made from walnut shells or wheat.

      I know one person (online) that composts his cat’s waste. That surprised me and I don’t think I would take a chance. Here’s where I get weird, okay I’m already weird, but I would love to have a pet again, I just don’t want the hassle of figuring out how to dispose of their waste or searching for bulk food to avoid plastic. My son said I should put up a small aquarium but I don’t want to do that because of the amount of water used. So I have to be satisfied with the wild animals that I see in the field.

      I have no brilliant suggestions for your kitty waste or finding litter without plastic. The only thing that comes to mind is looking for an organization that will accept your kitty waste and compost it for you. I know of one in the San Fran area and one in Minnesota but that’s not much help to you.

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